Seeing Drinking Through the Eyes of Social Media

YouTube videos that showed alcohol use with humor were popular with viewers

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Good times with friends sometimes involve a little drinking, but social media may be sending the wrong message about drinking too much.

A new study found that YouTube videos featuring alcohol were heavily viewed. When a video featured humor and alcohol use at the same time, it received more "likes" and views.

"I found it useful to know that videos containing alcohol references were liked less when injuries or intoxication were involved," said Brooke Molina, PhD, director of the Youth and Family Research Program at the University of Pittsburgh, in a press release. "This is very good news as it suggests there may be ways to incorporate both humor, to attract viewers and negative consequences of heavy drinking, to educate viewers. However, prevention messages may need to be increasingly creative and market savvy to have an effect."

Brian A. Primack, MD, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh, led this study.

The research team studied 70 YouTube videos related to alcohol intoxication. The videos received more than 333 million views in total.

In 79 percent of these videos, alcohol use and humor were presented together. Men were depicted more often in these videos. Ninety percent of the videos featured men, while 50 percent featured women.

One measure of popularity on the Internet is the number of "likes" viewers give something. The videos were "liked" about 23 times more often than they were "disliked." When humor was present with the alcohol use, the "likes" increased, compared to videos just portraying alcohol use.

These videos depicted liquor more often than wine or beer, Dr. Primack and team found.

Only 7 percent of the videos dealt with the negative consequences of alcohol dependence.

Because more of the videos involved men, and men tend to binge drink more than women, "future interventions debunking alcohol-related myths propagated on social media may be useful to target toward males," Dr. Primack and team wrote.

"Young people especially can be very impressionable," Dr. Primack said in a press release. "When they see alcohol linked with humor, attractiveness and positive consequences, they tend to simply take these associations at face value."

Dr. Primack said teachers and parents can actively teach children how to critically analyze information they receive through media sources like YouTube.

This study was published Feb. 20 in Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research.

ABMRF, the Foundation for Alcohol Research, funded this research. Dr. Primack and team disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
February 19, 2015
Last Updated:
February 24, 2015